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If you’re a quarterback and want all the fame, riches and toys that go along with winning the Heisman Trophy, you might want to think about making Norman, OK your destination. Since taking over the program for Bob Stoops a few years back, Lincoln Riley has produced a pair of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks and No. 1 draft picks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Will Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts make it three straight for Boomer Sooner’s shot caller? Regardless, the Sooners look primed for another solid season. If it results in successive trips to the College Football Playoff, they’ll have a quarterback in tow with Final Four experience. Only Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan have shorter odds to win it all at online sportsbooks than Oklahoma who is the decided -167 favorite to win the Big 12 for the fifth straight season.
Murray put together a masterful campaign throwing for over 4,300 yards and 42 touchdowns while racking up 1,000 more yards on the ground to go along with 12 touchdowns. If that’s the type of production Hurts gets to look forward to, a big year could be in store for the former Bama standout that was tossed to the scrapheap at halftime of the 2017 title game against Georgia. The Crimson Tide went 26-2 with him at the helm, and that type of leadership should go a long way for a team that possesses a multitude of weapons to take advantage of. The RB tandem of Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks is one of the best in the Big 12, while CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra provide dependable targets to get the pigskin in the passing game. The Joe Moore Award goes to the team with college football’s most outstanding offensive line. OU won it last season, but only one starter from that group returns. It will take some time for the new starting five to gel.
As fantastic it’s been on the offensive side of the ball throughout the Riley regime, the defense has taken a noticeable step back. Had Oklahoma been able to stop anyone a season ago, they might’ve won the National Championship. But they couldn’t deliver evidenced by the 450+ yards and 33+ points allowed per game; both outputs ranked out amongst the worst in the nation. Alex Grinch, formerly the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, was brought in to call the shots this season. It remains to be seen if the move makes much of a difference considering the Buckeyes defensive woes cost them a trip to the CFP. Grinch is an intense dude that emphasizes getting after the ball and forcing turnovers. Hopefully his presence allows for Oklahoma to improve upon its last place rankings within the Big 12 in a plethora of defensive statistical categories. Nine starters return for him to work his defensive magic upon.
The defense can’t be any worse than it was last season. There’s too much talent and experience returning for it not to be dramatically improved under the new, fiery defensive coordinator. The offense looks to be in great shape with whoever ultimately ends up under center as the playmaking corps ranks out amongst the best in the country. So long as the retooled offensive line can come together and do so quickly, the Sooners will once again lay claim to one of the four CFP slots. The schedule is very manageable with the Red River showdown against Texas arguably the toughest test on the slate. Hold serve at home and get the job done on the road at UCLA, Kansas, K-State, Baylor and in Stillwater for this year’s Bedlam Rivalry, and Boomer Sooner should be right in the mix along with the Michigan’s, Ohio State’s and Georgia’s for a return trip to the College Football Playoff at offshore sportsbooks.